Examination of Witnesses (Questions 180
THURSDAY 14 FEBRUARY 2002
180. We have all witnessed what has been going
on up in Cleveland and those of us who are not police officers
are astounded that things can get dragged out for whatever reason.
(Mr Elliott) One of the problems I think with this
is that unlike serious criminal inquiries there are aims and objectives
within a serious criminal inquiry and there are checks and balances
within that process. In other words, if there is a murder inquiry
there will be some checks and balances about timescales and about
the cost of the inquiry and people make judgments at various stages
about how much further that inquiry might need to go, rather unfortunately
in discipline that does not seem to happen as efficiently. What
seems to happen is that people seem to go off down blind alleys
occasionally or lengthen the inquiry beyond what was ever intended.
Without talking about specific cases there are one or two cases
around about right now which can demonstrate just that where the
key aims of the inquiry have been fudged round the edge and far
too many people have been brought into that process which has
effectively lengthened the process to no great satisfaction for
anybody involved. In other words, it is not focused enough, there
is nobody overseeing the management of that, there are no judgments
made about costs and other issues which can be made in many other
police inquiries. It is about management of the whole system on
an individual inquiry basis.
181. There has been a habit once somebody is
charged with a serious disciplinary offence to call in sick the
next day and then it becoming extremely difficult to get them
to attend the proceedings. That leads to things being strung out.
(Mr Elliott) People do tell us this happens and it
would be foolish of us to deny it happens but it does not happen
in every case.
182. You and I can both name cases.
(Mr Elliott) I am sure we could but equally in serious
inquiries where the chief officer can suspend the officer it is
his choicethat is the chief officer's choice and not the
individual's choiceas to whether he or she can go. The
regulations are quite clear, the suspended officer cannot simply
retire on his own without the chief officer's say so. To a certain
degree it is in the hands of chief officers if they are very serious
inquiries to take the appropriate action. We think sometimes that
does not happen and it is not for us to explain that, I do not
183. They are empowered I think as a result
of the changes introduced a few years ago in extreme cases to
go ahead in the absence of the defendant, are they not?
(Mrs Berry) That is absolutely right.
184. Are you aware that has happened ever?
(Mrs Berry) It has happened but I think, as has just
been said, maybe not as often as it may have been done.
185. Clearly as an organisation you are not
in favour of Community Support Officers which are to be part of
the measure introduced by the Home Secretary. Some would say that
as a trade union except in technical termswe are all aware
of post 1918you would not be expected to, what would you
say to that, Mr Elliott?
(Mr Elliott) We called some time ago for a Royal Commission
into policing to look at some fundamental issues about policing,
fundamental issues which would have involved the public and their
views on what British policing should be or should not be about.
If we had suggested a system which might be mirrored on continental
Europe, say Amsterdam or France, where they have two or three
tier style policing, that would have been quite radical. Our view
is that the public should have a say so about that before any
such introduction of a second or third tier of policing is involved.
It is a fundamental change to British policing in our view to
put somebody with pseudo police powers between the police and
the public. It is a move away from the traditional British policing.
We are against that and we think the majority of the public will
be against that. We think the public should have had an opportunity
to say that in the Royal Commission, which we did not get. You
could argue this is a trade union stand point of view, I think
we are reflecting both police and public concerns about people
with quite significant powers. Some powers, we think, are beyond
what the police officers have now, powers of detention. We think
that is a significant move away from traditional British policing
which should have been subject to a wider debate than that which
is currently afforded to the proposal.
186. These Community Support Officers' powers,
as I understand it, will include having powers to issue fixed
penalty notices relating to anti-social behaviour, requesting
the name and address and detaining for a limited period, presumably
detaining before the police arrive. Are any of those proposed
powers so terrible?
(Mr Elliott) Detaining for any period of time is in
my view, and I think our lawyers would agree with us, an arrest.
You have deprived somebody of their liberty even if it is for
a short period of time and the proposals in the Bill say "for
up to half an hour it is an arrest".
187. Yes. I am sorry to interrupt, they will
be detaining the person on the spot, will they not?
(Mr Elliott) Absolutely. There are some practical
difficulties with that. I can talk about the legal difficulties
which are when a police officer arrests somebody he or she has
to explain to the custody officer exactly why and how that came
about. Those were the protections which were put in for an arrested
person by Parliament in the Police and Criminal Evidence Act which
had very, very wide support. They were clearly there to support
the individual who was arrested. What we have got now is we have
somebody who may be detained, and I think it is an arrest, on
the street for up to half an hour. The practical difficulty with
that is that anybody who knows anything about street policing
knows that the first thing you do when you arrest somebody is
to try to get them out of the public eye. It is the most ridiculous
thing to have somebody stood trying to explain why he or she has
been arrested to them and you gather a crowd, it is embarrassing
for the person who has been arrested, it is difficult for the
officer, it is a recipe for disaster. It actually gets slightly
worse because then the police officer arrives and we are concerned
that the police officer may not have the power when he or she
gets there to actually do anything with the individual. There
may be no power for the police officer to arrest the individual
subsequent to detention because the powers provided to the Community
Support Officer in the Bill are quite wide. We, as police, have
powers to arrest and we have conditional powers of arrest for
people who have failed to give their name and address but they
are much more restricted, in our view, than are being offered
to the Community Support Officers. There are some practical difficulties,
there are some legal difficulties and I think there are also some
difficulties in terms of public perception. There are two issues
here. The first is that we, the police, are likely to be involved
in on the street arbitrations over these detained people. It is
almost like a custody officer on legs. At least in the comfort
of a police station the custody officer can make a reasoned judgment
about these issues without having a crowd of perhaps 15 or 20
people shouting "no, he didn't", "yes, he did",
or whatever. The public will see them as part of the Police Service,
so if we are not careful there will be a detraction from the image
of the Police Service. I think there are lots of issues around
the edges of this that are not as straight forward as the Bill
appears to suggest.
188. It is not simply the powers proposed to
detain people, as you say, for half an hour until a police officer
arrives, that is not the end of your criticism, is it?
(Mr Elliott) No.
189. Would I be right in saying that the Police
Federation are not in favour of CSOs per se?
(Mr Elliott) Absolutely not.
190. It is not a question of simply the factors
that you have outlined, which the Home Secretary will have to
take on board, your views about the resentment of CSOs detaining
people, but you do not like the whole idea?
(Mr Elliott) That is right. It is okay having somebody
walking the streets and having the ability to give fixed penalty
tickets but one wonders how effective that will be. It may be
that the schoolchild or my mother who drops a bus ticket in the
street will be approached and give her name and address and that
will not be a problem for the Community Support Officer but one
wonders whether the people who are being targeted here, the anti-social
individuals, will take any notice of the Community Support Officer.
In fact, at the moment a well trained police officer has difficulty
enough in handling people who are in drink or are generally anti-social.
We can see that the actions of the Community Support Officer rather
than saving police time will actually draw police to sort the
problem out that has been created by their presence. Where I live,
if you look at litter, for instance, it is mostly dropped by people
coming home from the pub, most of whom have had a drink. It is
not as simple as giving a drunk a fixed penalty ticket, I think
you are just going to add to the litter problem because he is
going to throw the damn thing away. It is not that simple. It
is one of the most difficult areas of policing, front line street
policing. It is one of the most difficult and challenging areas
of policing. I think that is one of the fundamental problems with
the proposal, it does not recognise the difficulty of uniformed
street policing in a modern society, it does not recognise that
191. What would you say, however, to the view,
put it this way, that street crime is substantially on the increase
in London and the Home Secretary apparently has told the Commissioner
of the Metropolitan Police that unless some effective action is
taken by his force the Home Secretary will send in his own squadI
understand from today's newspapers that is the position and we
shall see if there is any confirmation of thatand therefore
in view of what is happening at the moment in London, which has
been well and rightly publicised, why not give the police the
role that obviously they have of dealing with crime, serious crime,
crime which affects law abiding people going about their business
who are subject to mugging and all kinds of criminality, and sometimes
as we know with much violence, and other matters, lesser matters,
to be dealt with by the Community Support Officers? Do you see
any merit in such an argument at all?
(Mr Elliott) Not really, no. If there is money to
be spent on Community Support Officers with limited powers I think
we could certainly spend it better than spend it on Community
Support Officers. If you want to talk about some wardens on estates
doing what we might call super-caretaker roles which will improve
the environment that people live in, that is an entirely different
argument. What I think we have got here is a proposal for a second
tier of policing which I think will draw the police into that
tier to sort out the problems rather than the opposite. The difficulty
with this is that street policing, particularly in a capital like
London, is one of those areas that is a potential tinderbox for
complaint. It is people who are stopped in the street by the police
for a variety of reasons who raise complaints. It has got to be
very, very delicately handled, very delicately handled. We have
just enhanced the definition of a "stop" for stop and
search purposes, for instance. This demands a high degree of practicality,
training and sensitivity which I do not think that Community Support
Officers will have. I think there is a real difficulty with these
proposals. I do not see that they are alternative to policing,
I think they are going to pull police officers away from the sorts
of issues you are talking about. In other words, we will have
police officers dealing with dog dirt as well as Community Support
Officers and we still will not have the problem solved about street
crime. Our answer is to put more uniformed police officers back
on the street, which appears to work well in those areas where
it has been in trial.
192. Your alternative suggestion put forward
in your paper is "to build up and professionalise the special
constabulary into an effective auxiliary force" from about
12,700 to some 32,500. That is your suggestion as a Federation.
Is that a realistic aim?
(Mr Elliott) The Government in the last few years,
various governments, has spent a lot of money on professionalising
the special constabulary. Their training standards are higher
now and I think that has improved the image of the special constabulary.
The difficulty is I do not think people, particularly young people,
can afford to volunteer like they did in the past. I am sure that
lots of people would like to volunteer but they would probably
need a little bit of money to make ends meet. Our proposal is
we believe that there would be a larger number of people prepared
to try the special constabulary if we were prepared to give them
some reasonable recompense for their time. It would be a quid
pro quo, it would be a payment for a minimum number of hours
because what has happened in the past with specials is that there
have been no minimum hours and there has been little control in
that respect. We think we can work to a point where quite a number
of people would do that for a small payment. I was at a party
conference, it may have been when we saw the Countryside Alliance,
and they were saying there are lots of people in the countryside
who cannot make ends meet and we are short of police officers
in the countryside and it seemed to me that was an area the service
can work on where somebody would get a little bit of money for
being a special and it would improve some of the rural crime problems.
193. The meeting point to some extent between
the Home Secretary and yourself is that there is a need, you will
correct me obviously if I am wrong, for some support to the police
and in the Home Secretary's view, apart from special constables,
he is putting forward Community Support Officers but you are putting
the emphasis on more special constables. There is a meeting point
of a kind but obviously not getting quite to the same solution.
(Mr Elliott) I would not quite put it that way, Sir.
We have always argued for more police officers and the advantage
of a special constable is that he or she has all the powers of
a police officer, is under the control of the chief constable
and is recognised by the public as exactly that. The warden problem
is that not only are the proposals in the Bill for the Community
Support Officers and wardens but we can see a plethora of different
groups of people with different powers which must be confusing
for the public. At least with a police officer or a special constable,
the public know the extent of the powers. There is control from
the chief officer. There is input from the local authority to
the police authority and it is to us a far better solution and
one that sits with British policing.
194. No doubt you are hoping that if despite
your objections Community Support Officers arrive on the scene
they will turn out as popular as traffic wardens.
(Mr Elliott) Traffic wardens are, I have no doubt,
popular somewhere but I am not quite sure where.
195. Talking about traffic wardens, are they
allowed to join the Police Federation?
(Mr Elliott) No.
196. Traffic wardens have existed for something
like 40 years. Do you regard them as a second tier of policing?
(Mr Elliott) No because they do not have the power
which is proposed for the Community Support Officers which is
detention of course.
197. They operate out of police stations. They
have police radios. They are part of the wider police family,
are they not?
(Mrs Berry) I think in some forces they still are
but in an awful lot of forcesand I am not quite sure of
the percentagemost forces have now taken traffic wardens
away and they have gone under the auspices of the local authority.
Therefore I think in that situation they have moved locations
so they are not necessarily working out of police stations.
198. Prior to that happeningand you are
correct, they will be going from Essex in the next year or twothey
were part of the police family for that time. I am trying to work
out why it was possible to work with traffic wardens as part of
the police family and not the Community Support Officers?
(Mr Elliott) The difference is the extent of the powers
that are being offered to Community Support Officers. That is
the fundamental difference.
199. You have told the Committee about some
of the difficulty you envisage will happen if the street wardens
come in under the Community Safety Accreditation Scheme. Surely
that is exactly what happens in Holland? Certainly I have seen
it operating and I got the impression the police enjoyed having
this other level, if you like, these extra eyes and ears to support
them not to undermine them but actually to support them.
(Mrs Berry) The Police Service quite clearly cannot
operate on its own, it has to work in partnership with other organisations
within the community. There are a variety of local authority employees,
there are neighbourhood warden schemes, there are traffic warden
schemes, there are private security businesses with whom the police
work in partnership. I think there is a vast difference between
a co-operation in partnership and the extension of police powers
to these bodies. My understanding of what is proposed in the Police
Bill is that Community Support Officers would be employed by the
police and as a result of being employed by the police then they
would receive a certain level of power and that would be designed
by the chief constable. Not every Community Support Officer would
receive the same level of power, there would be different designations.
Accredited security officers would be people who are not employed
by the police, they might be local authority, they might be private
security. They could be people who were working in clubs and pubs
on the high streets. Again, they would need to have, I think,
what has been classed as a double key accreditation where if their
employer and the chief officer are convinced of the need for additional
powers, additional powers could be given. I think our concern
is on the extension of the powers, not that these different people
might be doing a very good job in private security or in the super
caretaker role but that they are actually then given police powers.
We feel that would increase our workload on occasions because
of the extension of powers rather than assist us.